Monday, 1 December 2008

One step closer to the removal of a federal minister's right to deny access to information using a conclusive certificate

The Freedom of Information (Removal of Conclusive Certificates and Other Measures) Bill 2008 is finally before the Australian Parliament and the text can be found at Com Law.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to repeal the power to issue conclusive certificates in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) and the Archives Act 1983 (the Archives Act) for all exemption provisions where certificates may be issued.
The proposal to repeal the power to issue conclusive certificates forms part of the Government's 2007 election commitments made in its policy statement, Government information: restoring trust and integrity.
The effect of the repeal of the certificate power will be that the AAT may undertake full merits review of all exemption claims.
This Bill does not seek to alter the exemption provisions in Part IV of the FOI Act or in Division 3 Part V of the Archives Act, except to the extent that it repeals the power to issue conclusive certificates. Where a document or record properly falls within an exemption category in those Acts (for example, documents affecting personal privacy or documents whose release could damage national security, defence or international relations), access may be refused.
Existing conclusive certificates will be revoked if and when a new request for access to a document or record covered by a certificate is received.

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